Ahh, the Toronto Raptors.
Off to a disappointing 6-10 start that, by any number of routes, could be a few games better, the Raptors head out on the road amid calls to bench the team’s highest paid player or trade the team’s best offensive player through a month of the season.
Quickly, a couple of responses: The first isn’t happening without a signed and notarized commitment that Gay will waive his option for next season, because benching him would make it a certainty that he picked it up, having lowered his value with such a dramatic (and public) move. And to sign said imaginary document, Gay would probably need a commitment from the team of a starting spot and a hefty shot load…so, yeah, doubt it.
As for the second, I get the argument, but unless the goal is to quickly build the team with free agents around a high pick, I don’t see the point. He’s the team’s best offensive – and probably most popular – player, and his contract is only really a burden when paired with Gay’s albatross. You can survive one scoring wing making a bit too much, especially if the rebuild isn’t going to be a one-year thing. Unless the return is appreciable (unclear) and the sights are indeed set on all-out tanking (which they would be, then), it doesn’t move the needle much for the franchise, as happy as it may make the player.
Oh yeah, some in the fanbase is also calling for lame duck coach Dwane Casey’s head. Which, you know, is probably fair. The offense has been obvious, boring, ineffective and getting worse, while the defense is only occasionally strong. Clock management is an obvious weakness, the rotations provide more questions than answers and he just pulled perhaps the team’s best player out of the starting lineup for Tyler Hansbrough. And then there’s the curious development plan for Jonas Valanciunas. However, a general manager only gets so many coaches, which is why Casey got a stay of execution in the first place. If this trip goes poorly, a move on the bench would hardly be surprising, but further preaching of patience wouldn’t be, either.
Anyway, the Raptors visit Golden State tonight (10:30 on Sportsnet 360) and then play in Phoenix on Friday and against the Los Angeles Lakers – maybe even with Kobe Bryant in uniform – on Sunday night.
And…yeah, this trip is starting with a loss at The Oracle.
Golden State’s “elevator doors” play became a fairly popular study in 2012-13. What are some other ways the Warriors work to get Steph Curry the ball with space to operate?
Strauss: They love to improvise staggered screens for Curry when moving the ball in semi transition. Usually it’s Bogut and Lee, creating a wall for Curry to hit an off the dribble three. Curry also gets plenty of threes off high screens from Bogut in the halfcourt.
The defense has obviously taken a hit with Iguodala sidelined, but this was still a league-average defense last season without him and ranks seventh on the season. Can this team be the league’s third best defense behind Indiana and San Antonio?
Strauss: Yep, but I’m not sure how good the defense is without Iguodala. With Iguodala out, they probably need more playing time from Draymond Green to be better than top 10. This unit really struggles without possibly the best perimeter defender out West.
The Warriors have only taken fewer than 20 3-point attempts four times this year and shot 52 percent on twos in those games. Is there any hope of keeping this team off the 3-point line successfully, or are opponents left to simply hope they go cold?
Strauss: Oh there’s hope, especially with Iguodala out. He’s never been known for his shooting, but the Warriors lost a competent three-point threat when he got hurt. If any of their distance shooters (Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Green) get into foul trouble, the Warriors are at risk of not spreading the floor enough to generate open looks.
Harrison Barnes is a bit of a sore spot for Raptors fans since the Warriors won a coin-flip for the seventh pick in 2012, leaving the Raptors with Terrence Ross at number eight. How does that coin flip coming up differently change this team’s upside for 2013-14?
Strauss: It changes the upside, but I’m not sure how much it changes the reality of 2013-2014. I’m sure Ross would get plenty of open threes on this Golden State team. Barnes is such a fascinating and frustrating player. I could write about him for days. He has superior physical gifts, but is often at a loss for how to leverage them. He boasts awesome defensive tools, though. Even if he doesn’t cash in on his offensive potential, he’ll bring the D.
Kyle Lowry and PG2 To Be Decided On A Last Minute Whim vs. Steph Curry and Nemanja Nedovic
Edge: Warriors by the length of Steph Curry’s range
This one’s not exactly close, even if Lowry plays as well as he has the past few games. Curry is the best shooter in the league, maybe ever, and I don’t at all trust the Raptors defense to be disciplined enough to stay tight on him off the ball.
DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Terrence Ross and Landry Fields vs. Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green
Note: Andre Iguodala is not presently expected to play due to a strained left hamstring.
I can see why some may argue in favor of the Raptors duo here, especially with Barnes struggling to start the year and DeRozan flourishing. Still, the efficiency of the Warriors duo – maybe in small part due to lower usage demands and the presence of better players alongside them – gives them the edge. Barnes is also the best defender in the group, and Thompson has the edge on DeRozan in that regard, too.
Tyler Hansbrough, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Steve Novak and maybe some Quincon Gracy vs. David Lee, Andre Bogut, Marreese Speights and Jermaine O’Neal Yeah Remember Him The Raptors Traded Roy Hibbert For Him
Bogut will be a nice test for Valanciunas and Hansbrough’s activity could get Lee into some foul trouble, but the Raptors are just at a major talent deficit here. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it doesn’t make it any less painful.
Vegas says: Warriors -7.5 with 65 percent of action going that way; 75 percent are also taking the over on 201
Hollinger rankings say: Warriors -7
‘Averages’ say: Warriors -2
John Mayer says: Say what you need to say
Blake says: There’s little to no chance, I feel pretty confident calling this a double-digit loss. With the way this team has struggled of late and struggled against good teams in general, it’s hard to envision them playing a strong 48 minutes. That may sound cliché, but it’s where the team is right now.
Fun fact: Dell Curry ended his career with the Raptors from 1999-00 to 2001-02. Steph’s father ranks 15th in Raptors history with 194 games played (it’s hilarious that that’s a top games total) and 12th in 3-point field goals made with 202. He’s also ninth in 3-point percentage at 39 percent, a leaderboard that contains some truly hilarious names.
Enjoy the game, folks. Please drink your grain alcohol responsibly.